Spanish, Polish, Yiddish, Twi, Patois, English – few New Yorkers live insulated from the hundreds of languages and dialects that wake the five boroughs every morning. If you’re a young, underpaid professional commuting toward city center, you start the morning at a bodega, the mecca of linguistic diversity on the East Coast of the United States.
Matías owns my frequented coffee stop on the way to the subway. He’s a Venezuelan father of two who enjoys reminding me what cigarettes can do to my teeth. “Pecado” (sin) he murmurs every time he hands the carton over, his left hand swinging to snatch a book of matches from the shelf above.
A chaotic mix of conversations hits me as I step through the subway doors. The eight stops across the East River to the edge of Manhattan curl through neighborhoods where over a third of residents speak English as their second language.
Pushing into the office, there’s the murmur of voices narrowing in on the day’s to-dos. A sea of young faces dot the open floor, most of us on our second cup of coffee. I dial into our morning meeting as my boss strolls through the same doors – the Vespa mirror poking out the top of his bag, a vigilance resulting from New York’s curious pattern of petty thievery.
Four years of Italian and I picked up no more than a few idioms. “Non lo so” proved most useful in the panhandler quarters on a trip to Rome. But my bilingual clock stopped ticking a decade ago. The opportunity cost of obtaining fluency passed with six-figure school loans.
Our morning call spans two continents, four time zones and six languages (13 if you include the programming languages we write). But only one working – English. Most days are busy enough to crunch pleasantries into simple derivations of “thanks.” Particularly when cohesion of our remote team relies heavily on written communication.
Engineers have the ability to rely on chat but as the Project Manager, I have to work the phones, utilize video chat, screen sharing, etc. It makes my life easier and at the end of the day, my relationship with developers determines my effectiveness. How well do I translate the needs of the business, to be built with programming languages I don’t know, using English, which is a second language to half our team?
So back to the headline – what languages can you learn to make the most money in any given career? Time and Rype’s CEO, Sean Kim have great takes on how to squeeze a dollar out of the yearning to learn another language. But the reality is, you’re most likely knee-deep in a career that keeps you plenty busy, and if you’re like me, time to become fluent has passed you by.
With all this said, consider the concept of microlearning. Here’s a breakdown:
The solution to any language learning wall must be approachable, flexible, affordable, and has to focus on specifics. Your journey to a higher salary is probably through some combination of competency, work ethic, and likability. Traits one and two are free. The third is tough to improve but the thought of building relationships with colleagues starts with expanding on pleasantries. In a competitive, multicultural and multilingual work environment, fitting a 15-minute targeted language learning experience with Rype is an accessible solution to improving relationships at work by bridging language gaps that modern companies run into, especially in the tech world.
My boss, the vigilant Vespa owner, is a German expat; half the developers I manage speak Portuguese, a few speak Spanish, the rest English. Rype can be that approachable, flexible solution to focused language learning for specific work applications that will ultimately improve your standing in your career and improve your chances at a raise. Think of Rype as the microlearning model for language in the 21st century.
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